JANUARY 25-26TH, 2020
The UCLA cycling team chooses PNG Nutrition to assure their racers are fueled for those race days.
For many, the UCSB/Cal Poly race weekend was the first road race of their lives. For others, this was the last first collegiate race of their careers. For the entirety of the team, this was an absolutely stellar and downright positive weekend.
The scene that stood out most prominently in my mind was the Cat B Men’s race and Women’s B/C races at Sunday’s criterium. In fact, throughout the weekend we were cheering the loudest, clapping the most furiously, and propelling our riders to the finish line with a jet engine of energy. The UCLA squad lined the finishing straightaway like children eagerly waiting for the freebies from a local parade: screaming, clapping, and jumping around like hooligans every lap our riders came through. Suffice it to say our vocal cords needed a good rest after two days of non-stop team bonding.
Let’s start with Saturday. Nestled away in the rolling, green hills of Santa Maria and beneath the shadows of oil wells, the UCSB Road Race consisted of a relatively flat 14-mile lap with a short, punchy climb that made for a painful selector. Not to mention the crosswinds picked up in the afternoon, and left a wake of havoc on the fields. Riders were spit out the back and remained in ones and twos for a large portion of the day. And unfortunately there were setbacks including crashes and punctures (but don’t worry, everyone came out of it A-OK).
In the morning, the Men’s D race kicked it all off. After 29 miles, the boys learned the dynamics of racing and their personal limits. Ben Clark was our top finisher with a 9th place in a 40+ person field. The Women’s B/C race rolled out with the Women’s 4/5 field, combined to have 43 riders! I could not have been more stoked to see so many awesome women at this early season race. Bodes well for 2020 in SoCal! After nearly two nerve-racking hours (we heard about a pretty substantial crash on the second lap), four of our women sped through the finish line with top 10s, with Claire Sterling, Esther Peluso, Rose Rao, and Kiran Chakravarty finishing 5th-8th! Annie was unfortunately caught up in the incident. In spite of a bike with shattered spokes, her spirits were anything but shattered. She embodied a joyous yet gritty attitude, and got back on the bike to race the following day.
In the Men’s B (also, Cat 4s), Tom Lai was looking strong for the first half before an untimely flat left him stranded. Sunday would be his redemption, but in the meantime the UCLA Bs made the best of the situation to land Alan Kowk and Clayton Puckett in 2nd and 3rd with Thomas Liang cracking the top 10 with an 8th place. Rachel Swan hopped in the uber-competitive Women’s Pro 1-2 field to finish 8th overall (1st collegiate). After battling mechanicals for the majority of her race, I think it’s fair to say her reintroduction to racing was remarkable. Evan Garrison worked his way into the top 10 in the Cat 5s and 2nd in collegiate. In the Cat 3 race (most of those guys should be racing with the pros), Frank Wyer and Paul Talma battled it out for 12th and 27th overall in gnarly crosswinds. Finally, Duncan Clark and Ethan Frankel rounded the day out with stellar finishes in the Pro-1/2 Men’s race to take first and second in the collegiate A’s (7th and 14thin the domestic scoring).
Sunday: Cal Poly Campus Criterium
I’ll set the story straight here. “Criterium” is a term I use carefully here, as it serves as a poor descriptor for the Cal Poly Campus Criterium. The course featured two very off-camber 120° corners with potholes and gravel, right at the bottom of breakneck descents, and a 30-second/10% kicker, all in .5 miles. “Torture Chamber” paints a more accurate semblance of the race, where mayhem and chaos were packed into a half-mile closed area. Nowhere for the entropy to go except around and around and around and around. Up, down, up, down, up down.
Freshman Evan Garrison set the tone for the day with a very strong 5thplace finish in the Men’s C on his GRAVEL BIKE. In the Men’s B, Tom Lai crushed it off the front for the first 10 minutes to pick up some primes before some pro triathlete dude from UCSB soloed away. The UCLA guys (Tom, Clayton Puckett, Thomas Liang, and Alan Kwok) chased valiantly and took first and second from the decimated field. In the Women’s B/C race, Annie Whalen hammered the front for several laps even having crashed hard the day before. She eventually suffered from her injuries, but internalized the pain and rode her brains out for fourth. Rose Rao and Claire Sterling finished in 8th and 9th respectively.
The Men’s D race was a chaotic mess, to say the least. After blowing up in the first lap, our riders fought through the 30-person field for the next 30 minutes, not knowing who was on which lap, to notch some excellent results in likely the most challenging (physically and technically) criterium they’ll do all season.
Usually, getting dropped demotivates me. Gets me down on myself. I internalize this and I become disappointed in myself. After making the 5-person selection, I got dropped. There’s no excuse besides I just didn’t have what it took to stay with the leaders – the skill nor strength. Despite this negative circumstance, with the team there on Sunday, I finished because of the “Go Ethan”s and “KEEP PUSHING IT”s. The endless team energy was contagious, and I am beyond excited to have this team for 2020.
– Ethan Frankel